Given the history, influence, and impact of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather, letting loose yet another review on the Internet seems rather pointless. Like any other beloved classics, whether it be Citizen Kane, Star Wars, or Casablanca, these films have been dissected in so many ways, trying to critique them on any level is fruitless.
Then again, that’s something that’s been stated before, and will be stated again about any modern review of a classic. As such, nothing here is going to enlighten you on the film itself, dig deeper into the mystique the movie has left behind, or how it has influenced the countless number of films to follow. What follows is a first impression (yes, first) of The Godfather as it stands today, with spoilers.
Coppola set the standard for every mob film to follow with this 1972 masterpiece, headlined by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the combination at the head of the Corleone family. However, the movie isn’t about the mob or its domination over 1940s New York. It’s a deep family drama, expertly filmed, scripted, and acted.
Despite running just under the three hour mark, Godfather doesn’t feel overlong. The opening wedding, which may very well be the longest wedding sequence in cinematic history, does it all. All of the characters are introduced, and with amazing depth thanks to the opening 20 minutes. It’s masterful storytelling, and the reason why the film can elicit an emotional reaction later as the mob war takes a turn for the worse.
It’s hard to express in words why the death of Don Corleone is an effective moment. Despite being the cause of countless murders, bloodshed, and other crimes, his deep family bond somehow turns him into someone you can care for. When Michael (Pacino) takes over, it’s not the same, something the sequel would fill in later.
Godfather has been infinitely parodied and quoted for humor, but it’s not because it hasn’t aged well. It’s done out of respect, and giving credit where credit it due. Even in an era of Saw, where graphic violence rules the day, the violence level in Coppala’s film is still jarring. Watching Talia Shire beaten by her husband is hard to stomach, and Sonny’s eventual death is gruesome on all levels. The fascinating, natural documentary style used further enhances the effect.
Godfather is gripping on all levels, and unquestionably worthy of the praise and recognition it’s received over the years. It holds up remarkably well, and in many ways, feels modern. This is what film masterpiece’s are all about.
Painstakingly restored for its hi-def premiere, Godfather has been cleaned up incredibly well. However, it needs to be stated that the film will never look modern or up to date, with its muted color and intentionally blow out contrast. What appears here is accurate according to Coppola himself.
Immediately apparent is how dim the movie is, intentionally so. The opening shots of the Don’s business deals are flat and murky, and much of the film carries this style. Thankfully, shadow detail is excellent, and in fact, detail is all around impressive. Faces and backgrounds look great despite the general softness present throughout. Grain has been left intact, and only spikes a few times briefly. The print is near perfection, with only minor specks noticeable.
Godfather carries an orange tint, so color never leaps off the screen, and flesh tones look somewhat sickly. As mentioned above, the contrast can be incredibly hot, especially during the opening wedding. It’s a blinding difference between the Don’s office and the outdoor area. As stated on the special features disc, it’s supposed to be like this, and the Blu-ray maintains this look without artifacting or noise.
While not a showcase for home audio, the clarity of the TrueHD remix is remarkable. Dialogue and the iconic soundtrack are wonderfully crisp, and free of distortion. A few brief moments of surround audio are noticeable, although hardly full. A piano tracks right to left at the 90 minute mark, and there’s an elevated train sitting in the background during a few scenes. Gunfire remains front loaded, and without any bass. Still, it’s an impressive effort that is just as spectacular as the video restoration.
The Godfather is released on Blu-ray in a trilogy, not as an individual disc. As such, the only extra on the original film itself is a commentary from Francis Ford Coppola. All of the following extras are on the fourth disc in the set.
The Movie that Almost Wasn’t is a half hour look at the struggle to make the film, including numerous interviews from around the industry. This is an excellent and honest look back. Godfather World discusses the influence the film has had on pop culture, including numerous clips from various TV shows.
Imulsional Rescue is an awesome look at the restoration of the original film, spoken in plain English, along with comparisons with previous versions. If you question the look of the Blu-ray, this is what you need to see. … When the Shooting Stopped is 14 minutes of editing information, and how the studio wanted a shorter film but caved in before release after seeing the full movie. Godfather on the Red Carpet is a collection of brief interviews with modern stars about the film at the Cloverfield premiere. Four Short Films About the Godfather is a collection of featurettes, including one that compares the first and second films.
Two interactive features let users dissect the Corleone and the crime family trees. A wedding album is also new to this set. Following all of this is the complete set of extras from the 2001 DVD release, which includes stacks of featurettes and the all-encompassing 90 minute documentary which was filmed during the making of Godfather: Part III.